I have not given up on my Build Back Boris campaign, which is the most pressing concern facing the UK. Once a beloved national monument like Nelson’s Column, this formerly majestic edifice has been chipped away by wokery in all its destructive forms, led by the country’s leading demolition expert, Carrie Symonds. It will cost millions and take years to rebuild him, but donors such as my friends William Shawcross and the historian Andrew Roberts have pledged their assistance and expertise. In the past few weeks, however, there has been serious subsidence, and a potentially catastrophic leaning to the south, like the Tower of Pisa. By the south I mean the London elites and scientific advisers who believe a Covid variant with milder symptoms is an excuse to prevent us from having a good time. Boris still retains his listed status, but only just.
This year, I have taken to giving parties and have flown into irrational rages at people who fail to RSVP. It’s not that I particularly desire their presence and I would be quite mollified if they pleaded another engagement. It’s just that their failure to respond at all instils me with terrible self-doubt. And it reminds me guiltily of all the past occasions when I too failed to RSVP. Now I have become, as Matthew Parris wrote over-generously, ‘a hostess’, I feel compelled to make a retrospective general apology to anyone I ever failed to reply to.
Perhaps it is Boris’s classical learning that prompted his generous approach to soirées in government establishments last Christmas: an indubitably miserable time when the urge to merge with the splurge must have been paramount. Quiz parties, cheese and wine parties, leaving parties, arriving parties, a seething, teeming mass of what now seems insanity. The Prime Minister is not a party man himself, socially or politically. He was always late for mine, and the physical complexities of dancing are beyond him. I have an inkling it is Carrie who takes the hard party line and is a compulsive salonista. Mrs Johnson is rumoured to fill her bijoux apartments with her youthful, sinuous, snake-like hierophants who dance while the PM drinks awkwardly in the corner. They can go and let their hair down, even bring their new affair down, introduce her as their wife. But as Irving, Berlin’s ‘hostess with the mostest’, advised: ‘They mustn’t leave their panties in the hall.’ Or in this case, on social media.
I am supposed to be going to Luxor after Christmas, though the government is making this increasingly fraught with yet more brummigen over the new Covid variant. Over the summer, I was in the south of France with Hugo and Sasha Swire. We were required to go to a local parking lot to take PCR tests before flying home. The French lady with the swab shoved it so hard up Hugo’s nose that he asked her if it was in revenge for Brexit. It was an unwise joke in his vulnerable position. She said nothing, but the look on her face made it clear that he was right.
In the field of horror fiction, so populous and yet so dreary, one author stands out. Richard Matheson, who composed some of the greatest episodes of The Twilight Zone, could be called the Rembrandt of the genre. His 1956 novel The Shrinking Man is high artistry, combining every fear humans are prey to with a heroic 18th-century philosophy. Matheson stuck to his lonely and perilous ground with his other great work, I Am Legend. This has become particularly pertinent as it describes a plague that first kills the human race, and then, through germ mutation, turns it into a race of vampires. The lone human survivor, whose house is attacked nightly by these creatures, some of whom he used to know, is puzzled as to why two of them show no fear of the cross. In a moment of splendid black humour, he recalls that one was Jewish and the other Hindu.
I am disappointed by Thérèse Coffey and Sajid Javid’s references to ‘snogging under the mistletoe’. Since when was ‘snogging’ part of the language of haute politics? I once ticked Boris off for using the word snogging. Apart from having an ugly cadence, it is completely devoid of romance and conjures up the sort of drunken, anonymous groping that teenagers engage in. I can’t envisage Talleyrand or Disraeli going on about the ‘snogs’ they had. But we are reduced to the Simian gabble of the crossroads. Per corollary, Dominic Raab suggested that the electorate should attend Christmas parties ‘for the social interaction’. Mr Raab is another minister not known for his Cowardian turn of phrase. He would have made even Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball sound like the reunion of a Soviet tank corps.